The top court in Poland ruled Wednesday that the kosher and halal slaughtering of animals contravenes the country’s laws, prompting criticism from religious associations, who said the move would hurt their way of life.
The ritual slaughter of animals, which is practiced by a small minority of Muslims and Jews living in Poland, will be banned after Dec. 31, reported Poland’s The News radio broadcaster.
The ruling, however, goes in opposition to the European Union’s mandate that allows ritual slaughter out of religious freedom.
Muslim and Jewish slaughtering methods are mainly used for meat exports, including for kosher products, but animal rights groups petitioned Attorney General Andrzej Seremet to look into the practice.
On Tuesday, Seremet claimed that a 2004 amendment that allowed ritual slaughter was actually unconstitutional because it goes in opposition to the country’s animal rights legislation that was passed in 1997. In Poland, animals can only be slaughtered “following the loss of consciousness,” the earlier law states, according to the broadcaster.
On Jan. 1, an EU law will come into effect that establishes rules for member states, allowing Muslims and Jews to continue the practice. The European Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter requires the stunning of farm animals before slaughter, but made exemptions for religious groups. However, individual countries can decide whether to allow the religious exemptions.
The head of the European Jewish Association on Wednesday asked Poland to reverse the ruling.
“Kosher butchering is essential for sustenance of Jewish life and its ban hurts Jews not only in Poland but in other places across Europe,” Rabbi Menachem Margolin said in a letter to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, according to the European Jewish Press.
Furthermore, Margolin argued,“It has been proven scientifically that kosher butchering does not allow the animal to feel pain,” rejecting claims made in Poland’s animal rights laws.
In kosher butchering, or shechita, the animal’s throat is cut with an extremely sharp blade and then the animal is bled to death. Muslim slaughtering methods, called dhabiha, are very similar, and are used to produce halal meats.
But under Polish law, the animals have to be stunned first, the court ruled.
“There have been many experiments,” Margolin said, “checking the animal’s nervous system activity during kosher butchering, that proven behind any shadow of doubt that that the animal either doesn’t feel pain because there simply isn’t [any], or it goes into sudden shock that prevents its brain from feeling anything.”
Margolin contended that kosher butchering is an essential aspect of Jewish life in Europe, meaning the ban on such products affects Jews who produce and consume them across the continent.
The last time both dhabiha and shechita slaughter methods were banned was when Hitler outlawed them while Poland was under Nazi occupation during World War II.
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